I ran two miles last night during the rain and pushed my body to the breaking point.
My legs haven't fully developed yet, so some days my body screams at me to stop - threatening to shut down and just not work. While the temptation is great, I would end up stuck alone, a mile from home.
The only way I could enter into rest was to push through the pain and continue running until I made it home. Even if I was barely running, if I was limping, I had to continue in order to receive the reward of rest and healing. Rest only comes after exhaustion. Healing only comes after being broken.
Believe me, the spiritual correlation was not lost on me while I quickly hobbled along.
My running partner was not there to push me on, but in spirit I could feel him pushing me along, remembering the encouragement I had gotten on previous runs and would receive again when we were back together. The point is that whether in person or not, we still run the race together.
Whether Christian or non-Christian, young or old, we all run the race of life together with the same degree of difficulty and the same propensity for struggles. I would even argue that someone isn't actually living if they haven't experienced pain to some degree.
I am puzzled by those people that imply that my faith will make the race easy. Why, then am I experiencing the kind of intense life experiences I am? Is my faith weak? (Well, yeah, at times) Is the issue my background? My personal valleys and struggles? To a degree, yes, these influence my ability to run the race of life.
Why is this such an issue, though? Is not the real importance the fact that I'm running and not the strength I have, or the health I have while running? I believe strongly that this is the lesson to be learned. What satisfaction is there to make it to the end without any sort of struggle along the way? You don't appreciate the pain. To quote the book The Fault in Our Stars, "pain demands to be felt." If it is not felt then I won't grow.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1, 2 ESV)
Throwing aside weight and sin implies a focus issue. These sins and weights are directional distractions. Never though, does this verse say that the runner will be unscarred or uninjured. It says to RUN. WITH ENDURANCE. Why else would he charge us to have endurance except that it was going to be a major temptation to stop because we dont think we can make it? The key to running well is to keep running.
Some days I don't think I can make it.
The shin splints in my soul scream at me to stop. My sides aching spiritually. The depression, the physical pain, the discouragement of the enemy crowd my mind and cripple me. But that does not mean I have to stop. If I make it all the way, even if I am in great pain, then I will receive the healing and rest I need.
The beautiful thing about running the race of life is that I know I will be one day made whole in Christ. No longer will I have to struggle with my problematic and flawed earthly body and mind. One day I will be made perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. This is the promise that James referred to when he said that the testing of my faith produces steadfastness. "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
With this future hope, I can find the strength to run. I may never cease feeling pain until the day that I die, but if I don't stop running, I know that it will all be worth it. I run "holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:16 ESV)
It will be worth it.
Pain is never fun.
But home is where the healing is.
So we must continue running on bruised and inflamed legs, going one step at a time until at last we arrive into the eternal rest of the Father.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25 ESV)
We do not run alone! We spur one another on, bearing one another along, encouraging each other every day. Through love and encouragement we run together, each bearing his own pain, but collectively bearing each other's.
Running home. Where healing is.
Healing only comes after being broken.
Where is home?
It's in Christ.